By Sam Taylor
Slaven Bilic was in a sombre mood as he revealed to the media that, after 18 months at West Ham, Dimitri Payet wanted to leave.
Since joining from Marseille, the attacking midfielder’s career has been propelled from run-of-the-mill to globally-recognised talent, mentioned alongside the likes of David Silva and Mesut Ozil.
However, since the move to the London Stadium, both Payet’s and West Ham’s form has deteriorated. The Hammers are mid-table in the league and out of the FA Cup after a 5-0 home thrashing by Manchester City.
And now the fans’ idol has decided that he no longer wants to pull on the claret and blue as he seeks a move back to Marseille.
They are not happy Hammers. Some have posted videos on the web featuring a twist on the song ‘We’ve Got Payet’, with the ‘we’ve got’ replaced by various expletives.
Other clips show his shirt being used as a doormat as fans left the stadium following West Ham’s Payet-less 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
Payet ‘never really settled’
The fans’ anger has been fuelled by the fact that, less than a year ago, Payet, 29, signed a new five-year deal reportedly worth £125,000 a week. It was the most lucrative in the club’s history, and ‘The love affair continues,’ was the pay-off line in a video released to mark the occasion.
So should West Ham battle to keep their French playmaker, at least until the end of the season, or let him move on?
Julien Laurens, a London-based French football writer, claims money is not the driving force behind his desire to quit.
“He never really settled in England. Despite him signing a new contract only 11 months ago with a very big pay rise, his family haven’t settled, the children are not happy in school and his wife is not happy either.
“They all went back to France to look for houses and schools. The main issue for him was always the family. They weren’t happy and that was impacting on him as a person and player. So he is saying ‘That’s enough, we’re going back to Marseille’.
According to Laurens, Payet is prepared to take a pay cut in order to make the move financially viable for the Ligue 1 side.
It’s claimed that a deal has already been reached regarding a contract, so now it’s simply down to Marseille offering an attractive price to West Ham.
Benefits if Payet leaves
It seems logical at this point for West Ham’s co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan to authorise Payet’s departure.
His displays this season have not hit the heights of the previous campaign, and his negative body language on the pitch has revealed his unhappiness.
His attitude clearly risks upsetting the dressing room, and as soon as he was removed from it, West Ham trounced Palace. Andy Carroll scored a contender for goal of the season, and fans claimed the atmosphere in their much-maligned new stadium felt like the “old West Ham”.
Of course, selling Payet mid-season means getting as much as possible for him, and West Ham are looking to triple the £10.7m he cost them in June 2015.
Releasing Payet has clear benefits for West Ham. It resolves a dispute that could potentially fester for weeks, if not months, and allows the team to move on and build on the win over Palace. It also gives Bilic the funds to replace him or invest in other positions.
The club would also be occupying the moral high ground. Wronged by a spoilt player whose career they took to another level, but magnanimous enough to let him go for the sake of his family.
Will they find another player like Payet? Unlikely, but the team may be more of a ‘team’ without him.
Image courtesy of G Travels via Flickr Creative Commons.